Kurds seek new political opposition

by QASSIM KHIDHIR HAMAD

Friday, 17 July 2009

Niqash

Voters in the Iraqi Kurdish Region are looking to elect a strong and active opposition in the forthcoming elections in the hope of limiting corruption, pushing forward reform and paving the way for a more transparent political and economic system say voters and politicians.

Sitting in the famous Machiko coffee house in Erbil, Zana Abdul Qadir a 27 year old English teacher, told Niqash that he was not going to vote for the region’s two main parties, which have dominated regional politics since 1991.

“The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] and the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] could have run this country better,” he declared, breaking off to inhale his cigarette. “They serve some special people and neglect the others,” he added, referring to widespread accusations of corruption and nepotism.

Abdul Qadir says he hopes that the establishment of a more forceful political opposition will push these ruling parties to serve the people more effectively. The region will become a better place, in terms of its economy and politics, if there is a real and strong opposition he hopes.

With elections set for July 25, campaigning is well under way and issues of reform, corruption and transparency are increasingly dominating the agenda. While the two main parties, competing on a joint Kurdish List, are expected to be victorious and maintain power, opposition politicians hope that the next parliament will introduce greater accountability into the system.

“The existence of a real opposition is necessary for the political system, necessary for government and necessary for people as well,” said Hadi Ali, secretary-general of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU).

According to Ali the Kurdish Regional Government is in need of urgent reform, adding that Parliament is inefficient and that no true opposition currently exists. Pointing to the weaknesses of the present system Ali explained that party interference within government institutions is rife, security forces are controlled by political parties rather than the state, and that corruption is endemic in the face of poor public salaries and services.

One list, the Change List, is campaigning largely on the pledge of sweeping reforms. The list, which is considered the main challenger to the Kurdish List, is promising an independent governmental and judicial system.

While the Change List is looking to seize the reins of power, other lists say they simply want to play a greater role in political decision-making.

Dr. Hadi Mahmud, a member of Kurdistan Communist Party and spokesperson for the Social Justice and Freedom List which is comprised of seven leftist parties, made clear that his list does not want to topple KDP-PUK rule, but rather, ensure wider participation and transparency, especially in the economic field.

In the face of these accusations, the Kurdish list defends itself vigorously. According to Sherwan Hayderi, head of the KDP parliamentary bloc, the two main parties “have been struggling for Kurdish freedom and rights for several decades… all the achievements in Kurdistan have been achieved by the KDP and PUK.”

Nonetheless Hayderi says that the Kurdish List would welcome a strong opposition bloc in parliament. “Without a strong opposition in parliament it will be impossible for democracy to progress in Kurdistan.”

With elections less than two weeks away, campaigning it now at its fiercest. For the people of the Kurdish Region, there is hope than out of this debate a new and better region will emerge.
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